Afzal Kohistani ‘Honour killing’ whistleblower was shot dead while in the midst of exposing a notorious meandering seven-year, multiple slayings case of ‘honor killings’ in north-western Pakistan
In 2012, Afzal Kohistani went public with allegations that a cleric ordered the murders of five women
The internecine blood feud began after a video showing four women and two men singing and dancing at a wedding in 2011 went viral in 2012, with deadly consequences
The women were seen singing along as two men danced in a video that went viral in 2012
Afzal Kohistani had expressed fears that he would be killed due to his role in the video scandal
The four women in the video, and a young female member of the family who was also at the scene, allegedly have been killed by male relatives for “breaching their honour”
In the ensuing family blood feud, after the slaying of the five women, the men in the video were next targeted
Afzal Kohistani, brother of the men in the video, exposed the imminent danger to his brothers, while they were shunted into hiding
Three of Afzal’s older brothers have since been killed in the feud, while six men from the women’s family were first convicted for the killings
They alleged, killers were later acquitted on appeal to a higher court, prompting Afzal Kohistani to redouble his efforts to expose the crime despite warnings and previous attempts on his life
Afzal Kohistani was shot multiple times in a busy commercial area of the city of Abbottabad on Wednesday night, killing him instantaneously
Honor killing whistleblower
Pakistan’s most notorious “honour killings” cases has been shot dead nearly seven years after he brought it to national attention.
After a video showing two men dancing as four women sing a wedding song to the beat of clapping, filmed in 2011 in rural Pakistan, led to chilling consequences.
The women in the video, and a young female member of the family who was also at the scene, are believed to have been killed by male relatives for “breaching their honour”.
A local tribal council — akin to a khap panchayat — saw this as an affront to their customs and ordered the girls’ murders.
Afzal Kohistani, a young man from the same tribe and whose brothers were also seen in the viral video, exposed the murderers of the girls and the cleric who ordered the killings.
Afzal Kohistani, was assassinated on Wednesday, his death coming amidst the blood feud that has also seen three of his other brothers killed.
Afzal was the brother of one of the boys in the video. Three of Afzal’s brothers – Shah Faisal, Sher Wali and Rafiuddin – were killed inside their home on January 3, 2013, reportedly by men belonging to girls’ tribe.
They also set Afzal’s house on fire, killing a child.
The courageous whistleblower himself was shot dead in a busy commercial area of the city of Abbottabad, famous for being the hideout of the terrorist Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Afzal was shot dead by unidentified gunmen around 8 pm on Wednesday night, police said.
He suffered multiple injuries and died at the scene the spot, police said.
Afzal Kohistani [photo] was kiiled after sticking up for five women killed after a video showing the women and men singing and dancing at a wedding, was aired in 2012
In 2012, Kohistani gained national prominence as one of the first Pakistanis to violate a local custom in remote northern Kohistan district whereby matters of family honour are settled in blood.
Those perceived to have violated the code are killed with the mutual consent of families involved.
Such killing are typically executed against a member of a family who is perceived to have brought dishonour upon relatives. – Pressure group Human Rights Watch says the most common reasons are that the victim:
Refused to enter into an arranged marriage, one is a the victim of a sexual assault or rape, else hd sexual relations outside marriage, even if only alleged.
Honor killings have also been known to occur for less serious situations like inappropriate dressing or displaying behaviour seen as disobedient.
About 1,000 “honour-killings” of women by relatives are recorded each year in Pakistan, say human rights campaigners. The real number is likely to be much higher. A much smaller number of men are murdered in such cases.
According to the custom, the male family members of a woman suspected of an out-of-wedlock liaison should first kill the woman, and then go after the man. The family of the man would not oppose this action.
Disregarding this local code, Mr Kohistani brought the wedding video case to national attention in June 2012, when he claimed that the women in the video had been killed by their family a month earlier, and that the lives of his younger brothers, two of whom were seen dancing in the footage, were in danger.
The pair were sent into hiding. At this point human rights groups had taken notice of the case and began lobbying the courts – prompting the Supreme Court to order an inquiry.
But the investigators found no conclusive evidence of the so-called honour killings of the women, which are illegal under Pakistani law. They were presented with three women who family members said were proof that those who appeared in the video were alive.
Farzana Bari, an activist who took part in the inquiry, said she had suspicions that at least two of the women were “imposters”, but the Supreme Court closed the case.
Afzal Kohistani’s decision to break the traditional codes – Kohistan is one of the most conservative and inaccessible parts of Pakistan – sparked a feud between his family and that of the women.
Afzal had said that a jirga held in Palas had decreed that he be killed wherever he was sighted.
Three of his older brothers were killed in 2013 – six men from the women’s family were convicted in connection with the murders in what was seen as a landmark case in Kohistan. However they were acquitted by the high court in 2017.
Amid the feud, Mr Kohistani’s house was firebombed and destroyed but he did not relent. He moved home and continued to talk about what had happened to the women – lobbying police officers and courts and drawing attention from the media.
Finally, in July 2018, the Supreme Court ordered a fresh police investigation, which led to five further arrests of men from the women’s family.
According to the police, the men admitted during interrogation that three of the four women seen in the video had been killed, but retracted their statement when they appeared before a magistrate.
The case remains open but the killing of Afzal Kohistani deepens the tragedy – which started with a video of dancing and singing and has since spiralled into a bloody tale of Shakespearean proportions, with at least nine lives claimed.
He had for years warned that his life was in danger, Afzal had been receiving constant death threats, prompting the Supreme Court to direct the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to provide him security, but the orders were reportedly not followed.
In a recent interview Afzal told BBC Urdu that his family was living under constant threat: “Justice will only be done when killers of the women and of my brothers will be sentenced. Only then can we expect an end to honour and reprisal killings in Kohistan.”
Hours before his death, Afzal Kohistani told local journalists in Abbottabad that justice was closing in on those responsible for the murders and that he had been warned of an imminent threat to his life.ent.